Use of smoking cessation services continues to fall

The number of people trying to quit smoking through NHS Scotland services has fallen for the sixth consecutive row.

Official figures for 2017/18 showed 55,369 people used NHS smoking cessation services, a 7.4% decrease from 2016/17 and a 54.4% decrease since 2011/12 when numbers of quit attempts reached their peak.

The reduction in service use comes amid a fall in the overall number of people smoking in Scotland. The last Scottish Health Survey reported an adult smoking prevalence of 18.2% in 2017, down from 21.1% in 2016.

Analysts said the reason for the fall in NHS cessation service use was likely due to a combination of factors, including the use of electronic cigarettes.

The Scottish Government said the fall in people attempting to quit reflected “the significant fall in the number of smokers in Scotland over the past six years”.

A government spokesman said: “Fewer than one in five adults in Scotland now smokes, down from one in four in 2012.

“Scotland is also performing well in comparison with the rest of the UK, where the number of people attempting to quit has fallen in the past year by almost twice the rate of Scotland.

“It is particularly encouraging that the majority of quit attempts through NHS stop smoking services are by people in the most deprived communities, where smoking rates are highest. And the greatest reduction in smoking in recent years has been in those same communities.”

ASH Scotland chief executive Sheila Duffy said: “Two-thirds of smokers consistently tell us that they want to quit and with stopping smoking being the single best thing anyone can do for their health we would still encourage people to find their way to quit.

“There is a range of different approaches people can try to find what works best for them, and the free expert advice from Quit Your Way Scotland on 0800 84 84 84, or your local pharmacy, GP or stop smoking service can really increase your chances of success.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “It’s disappointing that when smoking is still responsible for 10,000 deaths a year, performance against this NHS quitting target has been reduced to ashes.

“Helping people stop smoking is a win-win for everyone. Individuals get healthier, children and family members reduce their exposure to passive smoking and in the long term, it reduces the pressure on our hard-pressed health service.

“The Scottish Government need to be working with successful health boards such as NHS Forth Valley to share good practice and ensure that efforts to stub out Scotland’s smoking habit get back on track.”